Gazelle CityZen C8 HM

eBike

In the United States, many people would have missed or not even know about this model because Gazelle is just starting to enter the market and pick up dealers (aside from a select few early adopters like the New Wheel in San Francisco). This electric bike builds on the strong reputation and heritage of the Royal Dutch Gazelle brand, which has become a household name in the Netherlands after 100+ years of bicycle building. I came into the review not knowing a lot about the company but was impressed by stories of UV and salt water exposure stress tests. In many parts of Europe, people use their bicycles more like Americans use automobiles… they need to be reliable and are held to higher warranty standards. Apparently there’s a factory in Holland with big windows where you can actually walk by and see people assembling the bikes in real time, that’s the kind of transparency and and engagement I love and hope to visit one day! All that stuff aside, what’s the deal with the bike? What if there wasn’t a badge on it at all and I was just looking at the hardware? In that case, I’d call a lot of it average but highly capable. This isn’t the fanciest e-bike but it is professional and very capable.

The motor driving the C8 is a Bosch Performance Line Centerdrive offering either 250 watts or 350 watts power output… and I’m sorry but I just don’t know which? I was told by Gazelle reps that it’s the 250 watt variant which is set to European standards whereas most US versions are upped to 350. Regardless, it’s all the same physical hardware and even if the nominal wattage output is slightly lower the peak is still capable and you’ll end up extending range. For an efficient rigid frame with larger 700c wheels and higher PSI ratings, you don’t need as much power to get going. The Bosch motor has evolved over the past couple of years with new CX variants putting out higher torque for mountain biking and some tighter integration (tilted and built up into the frame more). What I see on the Gazelle CityZen C8 is the older horizontal mount with large plastic shell. It’s well protected but not as aesthetically pleasing… and this is where I felt surprised by price. If this is indeed a carryover and is using a lower watt motor operation parameter and the smaller 400 watt hour battery pack then I’m surprised the price is still set near $3.8k? And in fact, I have seen the bike priced lower in person at some shops.

So the motor is very capable, super responsive and smart even if it’s not rated to be as powerful as some others. The battery is similar in that it’s sleek, relative light weight and can be charged on or off the frame. Gazelle has designed the C8 with a custom downtube mount that’s indented to blend the battery with the frame and perhaps make it easier to click on and off. Bosch batteries click down vs. sliding in from the side and having more clearance above to pull up or press down on the pack is important. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough clearance to put bottle cage bosses, at least on the Trapez mid-step frame. I can’t say for sure whether the high-step has them but the images on the official Gazelle website does not show them… which is disappointing. You do still get a very capable rear rack with included bungee straps so consider a trunk bag with a bottle holster like these. A trunk bag could also be used to stash a second battery pack or the charger to extend your rides. Bosch is now putting out 500 watt hour batteries and the C8 seems to use their older 400 watt hour design. Thankfully they are interchangeable and forward and backward compatible.

Operating the City Zen C8 is a breeze thanks Bosch. Charge that battery on or off the bike then click it on… Press the power button on the removable Intuvia display and get your battery, speed and power level readout in seconds. Now you can click up or down on the remote button pad (mounted near the left grip) to increase or decrease assistance. You can even arrow all the way down to no assistance and ride this thing like a regular bicycle. Having eight gears to work with is fantastic for urban environments and I love the little chain cover that protects the sprocket and your pant leg or dress from grease and snags. One thing about internally geared hubs is that they tend to be more durable than traditional cassettes and derailleurs. And, you can shift at standstill. This sounds better than it actually is with the Shimano Inter 8 hub because it lets you shift but won’t engage immediately if lots of force is being applied. It’s a system that takes a little getting used to but works very well overall. Now, you might notice the derailleur looking hanger thing at the back and that is actually a chain tensioner. I believe they need it because the dropouts are vertical not horizontal (which would allow you to manually tighten the chain). This makes it a bit more durable than some internal hub systems but worked well enough during my test ride. with just one sprocket at the front and one at the back, the chain shouldn’t wear down the teeth from shifting or slip as easily. Coming back to the motor for a second, it has shift sensing which is meant to ease off as you change gears and reduce mashing and wear. I’m guessing it helps a little bit on this drivetrain but can’t say for sure. A few things I know I do appreciate are the dynamic range approximation on the display, the integrated Micro USB port for charging your phone or other portable electronic device and the integrated LED Lights. These features combine with the fenders, reflective tires and multiple frame sizes to put the C8 into the more premium category of electric bikes. It’s safer and just more practical for heavy use in busy, possibly wet, commuting environments.

Perhaps the biggest question mark for me with this electric bicycle is comfort. You get an adjustable angle stem, allowing for a more upright body position (especially useful for riders with shorter arms). But you don’t get any kind of suspension fork or seat post. The tires are rated at 65 to 95 PSI which is way higher than most cruisers or larger-tire eBikes and this results in an efficient but sometimes uncomfortable ride. The frame is all Aluminium, even the rigid fork, and this material doesn’t dampen vibration as well as Carbon fibre or Steel. It’s less expensive and fairly light weight but I’d probably grab a 27.2 mm seat-post suspension like the Thudbuster ST for the bike if I lived anywhere with cracks and bumps and intended to ride frequently. Overall, I’d be more excited about this bike if it was priced lower (and perhaps the reality is that it does sell for less than the stated MSRP). I like the accessories, the frame colour scheme and integrated wires, the quick release front wheel for easier maintenance and the narrow bars for lane splitting or easier passage through doorways. This is an e-bike that will surely hold up, offers a bit of character and unique heritage but is still backed by a powerhouse multi-national company. I’d probably customise mine a bit but the foundation is very strong and you can get a frame size that is perfect (which is impossible to customise after-market). If you want an ebike that can blend in, that has a reliable drive system and even more reliable electronics then this is a good choice. Hope on and commute to the office then take the battery and display off for charging and safe keeping. Expect great range even with the older battery pack size, the weight is low, centred and the more active frame and tires transfer energy very well.

Pros:
Available in four mid-step frame sizes and three high-step (three overlap so you really end up with four distinct frame sizes), this is excellent for a his/her setup or those who prefer one frame type over another (rigid strength of high-step or easier mounting of step-thru)
Premium LED Lights wired right into the electrical system so you don’t have to worry about changing batteries or taking lights off when you park, they are always there for you, the headlight has windows on the side to help you be seen from different angles
In addition to lights, I love that they went with higher end Schwalbe Spicer tires that have reflective tape, this increases your visual footprint from the side and is great for a darker colored bike that’s setup for urban riding and commuting
The bike comes with a cafe lock that secures the rear wheel, this is popular in Europe for “dropping in to the cafe” briefly and is a light weight way to always have a bit of security… it uses the same key as the battery pack which is convenient
Internally routed shifter, brake and electronic cables stay out of the way and improve the look, since the frame is dark grey and the accents are black the wires really blend in when they are exposed
Thin light weight fenders hug both tires and are reinforced for durability, the plastic chain guard is also minimal in appearance but works very well to reduce greasy pant legs and snags
You get eight gears which is enough for city riding in my experience and the drivetrain uses a Shimano Inter 8 internally geared hub which tends to be durable and maintenance free compared with traditional derailleurs… though a bit heavier
Nice cargo rack here, it supports the rear fender, has tighter side bars to block panniers from rubbing on the rear wheel and comes with a bungee cord for quick use
The saddle and bar style are both fairly active but the stem is adjustable angle so you can relax the fit a little… I tend to enjoy a more upright body position so this is a big plus for me
Solid 160 mm hydraulic disc brakes from Shimano offer smooth powerful stops and have adjustable reach levers, disc brakes tend to stay cleaner in wet riding conditions
Nice kickstand, it stays out of the way compared to mid-mounted options and offers adjustable length settings
I’m a huge fan of the Bosch electric bike system because it blends in, keeps weight low and centre, is easy to work with (removable battery and display) and offers fast response time and lots of power but is still very efficient… the Bosch Centerdrive also has shift sensing but that’s less of a benefit here since the hub is internally geared vs. using sprockets
Very good two year warranty with the backing of a major global brand (Gazelle is owned by the Pon Group), they are about a year and a half into the US market at the time of this review and are growing dealers where you can test ride the bike and get is serviced
Cons:
I was a little surprised that the bike I tested weighed ~51 lbs because the fenders were so thin, the fork was rigid vs. suspension and the rack wasn’t welded on… I expected it to be a little lighter but internally geared hubs tend to add a bit of weight and perhaps the mid-step frame is heavier since it’s not quite as strong as a diamond frame and has to be reinforced?
Internally geared hubs can take some getting used to, they shift a bit differently and can be adjusted at standstill but might not engage until your pedal torque eases off
This eBike is very efficient due to the smooth 28″ tires and rigid fork but you don’t get a suspension fork or suspension seat post so it’s not as comfortable at high speed over bumpy terrain
You get a lot of high quality equipment and a great warranty but the price felt a little high given there’s no suspension fork or head shock… I feel like $3,500 would be more on target with competing bikes but Gazelle is more of a premium brand and they do UV testing on their paint and a salt bath to select better hardware that won’t corrode as readily
The down-tube is custom with a cutaway so the battery pack doesn’t stick up as high but I guess there still wasn’t enough room for bottle cage bosses (at least on the Trapez mid-step version)

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